Grace to you and peace from God our Father, Jesus our Savior, and from the Holy Spirit our Advocate and Guide.
My mother frequently told the following story. It was Advent. My mother was driving with several of us young children in the car. My brother Brian, who would have been about kindergarten age, pointed out a particularly realistic looking outdoor Santa Claus display. He said, “Look Mommy! There’s Santa. I LIKE Santa.” Mom replied, “I don’t like Santa because I want people to know that Christmas is about Jesus giving us life and not about Santa giving gifts.” To which Brian responded, “I don’t like anything that has to do with giving either!”
Whenever she told the story my mother would then chuckle and say, “It was then I learned about the power of symbols to convey meaning.”
In contrast to our family which never had Santa gifts or never even heard of Elf-on-the-shelf, there was a young family in my previous congregation who went all out on Christmas Eve to keep the story of Santa alive. They had two daughters, about two years apart, and the family did all the Santa preparations. The empty stockings were hung. The tree was decorated but there were no presents under it. Milk and cookies were set out for Santa, and there was hay in the yard for Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer. Just as the girls would be falling asleep there would be the sound of clopping over the girl’s bedroom ceiling and the ringing of sleighbells outside in the yard. Sure enough on Christmas morning the milk and cookies were just a ring in the glass and crumbs on the plate. The hay was trampled and mostly all gone. Best of all the stockings were full and underneath the tree was a plethora of presents.
This went on for years.
However, when the older daughter was a freshman and the younger daughter was in seventh grade, the older daughter said to her mother, “Mom, you have to tell my sister that there is no Santa Claus, that it is just you and Dad. She still believes in Santa Claus and it’s getting embarrassing!”
So one day when the two of them were driving the mother said to her youngest daughter, “Honey, there is something I need to tell you. There is no Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve when you hear the tapping, that’s your dad in the attic with a broom handle. I’m out in the yard with the bells. We set out all the presents. Even the ones from Santa are ones that he and I have bought for you.”
The daughter said after a long silence, “But the Easter Bunny. He’s real, right?”
“No, honey, that’s your mom and dad too.”
“But the tooth fairy. She’s real. She leaves me money under my pillow.”
“I’m sorry, honey, we do that too.”
To this day the two of them can remember that place on the road.
This morning my devotional from Richard Rohr read, “With no storyline, no integrating images that define who we are or direct our lives, we just won’t be happy. Carl Jung developed this idea for our generation of Western rationalists, who had thought that myth meant “not true”—when in fact the older meaning of myth is precisely “always and deeply true”!
“Jung goes so far as to say that transformation only happens in the presence of story, myth, and image. A great story pulls us inside of a universal story; it lodges in the unconscious where it is inaccessible to the brutalities of our own mind or will, as Thomas Merton observed. From that hidden place we are healed.”
May the Christmas story bring you the transformation for which you long.
Peace, Pastor Doug